Online Voluntary Local Review (VLR) Lab | About

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Local Action

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the “Transforming Our World: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (2030 Agenda) and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to guide the global community towards a sustainable society that leaves no one behind. The 17 SDGs include 169 targets and 231 unique indicators for tracking progress. Local and regional governments are responsible for an estimated two-thirds of the 169 targets.1 The 2030 Agenda not only includes an urban SDG (SDG11 on Sustainable Cities and Communities), but because all SDGs have targets that are directly or indirectly related to the daily work of local administrations, local and regional governments play an important role in achieving all 17 SDGs.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated this idea in 2019 when he launched the Decade of Action. The lack of progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda during the first five years of its implementation period (2015–2020) necessitated a redoubling of efforts to accelerate sustainable solutions. The Decade of Action identifies three key levels as levers for action: global, local and citizen action. Therefore, the local level is critical for integrating sustainable principles into policies and strategies that are more accessible to citizens. However, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had unprecedented social and economic impacts, often reversing previous progress in many SDGs.2

Voluntary Local Reviews, a Primer

Given that the 2030 Agenda was created with national governments in mind, local and regional governments must localise the SDGs, targets and indicators to align with their specific realities. To accomplish this, an increasing number of regions, cities and towns are using Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) to articulate their SDG-aligned strategies and track and review their policies to assess progress. The Voluntary Local Review (VLR) is a process in which local and regional governments (LRGs) assess their progress towards implementing the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs. This allows LRGs to share their experiences, challenges and lessons learned and open their doors to new partnerships to fill the implementation gap for their local vision.3 It also allows local governments to engage citizens in the review process, strengthening accountability and inclusive governance. This process culminates in the publication of a VLR report outlining the findings of these reviews. The long-term goal is to complement Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) by bridging the gap between local realities and national policy frameworks and informing the global community and national policymakers about local actions.

In July 2018, Kitakyushu City, New York City, Toyama City and Shimokawa Town launched their first VLR reports at the annual United Nations High-Level Political Forum(HLPF). The four municipalities demonstrated their commitment to implementing and monitoring the SDGs on a local level. This sparked the VLR movement, with nearly 200 LRGs producing a VLR report between 2018 and 2023.


The IGES VLR Lab aims to support LRGs’ VLR processes by improving access to information and exemplary process experiences. IGES opened the VLR Lab in March 2019. At the time, no other information hub gathered VLR reports from around the world or examined VLR reports to identify current trends in the VLR movement and best practices. We refer to this platform as a ‘lab’ because it provides the materials and best practices required to pursue new, innovative and robust methods of local reporting on the SDGs. By collecting lessons learned, the VLR Lab helps LRGs plan their own VLRs more effectively.

Our VLR Lab compiles best practices in VLR implementation and VLR movement research into a single online platform. It is based on IGES’ experience supporting the implementation of VLR processes in Asia and ongoing VLR research. Along with collecting VLR reports, the VLR Lab highlights IGES’ research on the VLR movement in an annual report titled ‘The State of the Voluntary Local Reviews’. The first edition of this series of reports was published in 2020 to help local governments better understand current trends, challenges and opportunities for accelerating their progress in implementing the SDGs and conducting VLRs.

  1. OECD. (2020). A Territorial approach to the sustainable development goals: synthesis report. OECD Publishing.
  2. Sachs, J. D., Kroll, C., Lafortune, G., Fuller, G., & Woelm, F. (2022). Sustainable development report 2022. Cambridge University Press.Yuan, H., Wang, X., Gao, L., Wang, T., Liu, B., Fang, D., & Gao, Y. (2023). Progress towards the sustainable development goals has been slowed by indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Communications Earth & Environment, 4(1), 184.
  3. Ortiz-Moya, F., Tan, Z., & Kataoka, Y. (2023). State of the voluntary local reviews 2023: Follow-up and review of the 2030 agenda at the local level. Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. Ortiz-Moya, F., & Reggiani, M. (2023). Contributions of the voluntary local review process to policy integration: Evidence from frontrunner cities. Npj Urban Sustainability, 3(1), Article 1.